SeaWorld And Jacksonville Zoo Return Two Rehabilitated Manatees

ORLANDO, Fla. (January 10, 2018) – This morning SeaWorld Orlando and the Jacksonville Zoo and Gardens returned two rehabilitated manatees. A warm water source near the St. John Boat Ramp provided the perfect location for this important manatee return.

The goal with every rescue is to rehabilitate and return the animal as quickly as possible. This remains the case even during winter months. Throughout the year, The Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission (FWC) closely monitors environmental factors of Florida waterways including water temperatures, which allows for rehabilitated manatees to be returned year-round. Returning manatees to a warm water source also allows the rescued manatees to familiarize themselves with the warm water site so they can return to it again the next time temperatures cool down.

Rehabilitated Manatees Returned:
Harper Lee- This sub-adult female manatee was rescued on November 9, 2017 from Sikes Creek in Merritt Island Florida due to an entanglement. During her rehabilitation she received routine wound treatment as well as antibiotics for infection caused by the entanglement.

Carolina- The sub-adult female manatee was Jacksonville Zoo’s first critical care patient at their new facility. She was rescued in Charleston, South Carolina as part of a larger operation to relocate wayward manatees that found themselves trapped in the Cooper River when water temperatures quickly dropped last November. Carolina was exhibiting mild cold stress and it was determined by SeaWorld and Jacksonville veterinarians onsite that she would require rehabilitation. Over her six week rehabilitation she was able to heal from her cold stress injuries and regain her strength.

In addition to returning two rehabilitated manatees, SeaWorld Orlando transferred a young rescued manatee to the Jacksonville Zoo. As part of the Manatee Rescue and Rehabilitation Partnership (MRP) facilities are able to work together shifting rehab animals between facilities to ensure future rescues are not turned away. With the Jacksonville Zoo taking this young rescue for continued rehabilitation, SeaWorld Orlando now has more space for future critical rescues.

Manatee Rescue & Rehabilitation Partnership

As part of the Manatee Rescue & Rehabilitation Partnership (MRP), SeaWorld Orlando is an acute care rehabilitation facility that provides life-saving medical care to rescued manatees.

The MRP is a cooperative group of non-profit, private, state, and federal entities who work together to monitor the health and survival of rehabilitated and released manatees. Information about manatees currently being tracked is available at http://www.manateerescue.org. The Florida manatee was recently reclassified from endangered to threatened, but is still at risk from both natural and human causes of injury and mortality. Exposure to red tide, cold stress and disease are all natural problems that can affect manatees. Human-caused threats include boat strikes, crushing by floodgates or locks, and entanglement in or ingestion of fishing gear.

All manatee rescue footage is produced by SeaWorld under the FWS Permit Number MA770191.

If you see an injured marine animal, you can help by calling the FWC hotline at 1-888-404-3922 or by dialing *FWC on a cellular device.

About SeaWorld Entertainment, Inc.

SeaWorld Entertainment, Inc. (NYSE: SEAS) is a leading theme park and entertainment company providing experiences that matter and inspiring guests to protect animals and the wild wonders of our world.

SeaWorld Entertainment, Inc. is one of the world’s foremost zoological organizations and a global leader in animal welfare, training, husbandry and veterinary care. The company collectively cares for what it believes is one of the largest zoological collections in the world and has helped lead advances in the care of animals. The company also rescues and rehabilitates marine and terrestrial animals that are ill, injured, orphaned or abandoned, with the goal of returning them to the wild. The SeaWorld rescue team has helped more than 27,000 animals in need over the last 50 years.

The company owns or licenses a portfolio of globally recognized brands including SeaWorld®, Shamu® and Busch Gardens®. Over its more than 50-year history, the company has built a diversified portfolio of 11 destination and regional theme parks that are grouped in key markets across the United States, many of which showcase its one-of-a-kind zoological collection of over 800 species of animals. The company’s theme parks feature a diverse array of rides, shows and other attractions with broad demographic appeal which deliver memorable experiences and a strong value proposition for its guests.

About Jacksonville Zoo and Gardens

For over 100 years, the Jacksonville Zoo and Gardens has aimed to inspire the discovery and appreciation of wildlife through innovative experiences in a caring environment. Starting in 1914 with an animal collection of one red deer fawn, the Zoo now has more than 2,000 rare and exotic animals and 1,000 species of plants, boasting the largest botanical garden in Northeast Florida. The Jacksonville Zoo and Gardens is a nonprofit organization and a portion of every ticket sold goes to the over 45 conservation initiatives Jacksonville Zoo and Gardens supports around the world, and here in NE Florida. JZG is proud to be an accredited member of the Association of Zoos and Aquariums. For more information, visit jacksonvillezoo.org.

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Freezin’ For A Reason 2016

Polar Plunge Freezin' For A Reason at Aquatica by SeaWorld Orlando for Special Olympics FloridaSaturday February 13, the Special Olympics Florida’s Polar Plunge® will be held atSpecial Olympics Florida Aquatica. During this statewide fundraiser, individuals and teams, alongside Special Olympics athletes raise money for the privilege of Plunging into the chilled down wave pool.

Aquatica is usually warm and tropical (as we all know!), but once each year they chill down the wave pool so plungers can experience the “thrill of the chill” all while supporting a great cause.

I remember my first Polar Plunge. It was exciting to be part of such a huge joint adventure, with people from all over in crazy costumes, all “fired up” to get really “chilled down!” Each time it’s a heck of a lot of fun, but more importantly it’s an opportunity to make a difference. Every dollar raised helps the athletes of Special Olympics Florida by transforming their lives through the joy of sports.

Polar Plunge Freezin' For A Reason at Aquatica by SeaWorld Orlando for Special Olympics Florida

It’s loads of fun watching the firemen! The Florida Professional Firefighters are Presenting sponsors.

If you haven’t signed up for the Plunge, and would like to, click this link or if you’d like to leave the “freezing” to me, please support here. (Team members wanted! Join me here.)

There is no cost for plunging but Plungers are asked to fundraise a minimum of $100. Plungers create their own personal Plunge webpage so friends, family and co-workers can donate online. It’s quick, easy and secure.

Spectators are welcome to join in, cheer on, and join the party. Only the wave pool will be chilled down, the rest of the rides are heated. Come for the Plunge, then enjoy Aquatica all day!

If you don’t want to Plunge, but still participate, you can become a Virtual Plunger.  Raise pledges and receive incentives just like a regular Plunger, but without going into the chilly water.

Plungers who raise the minimum of $100 in donations, automatically get entry into Aquatica, the official Polar Plunge® T-shirt, two spectator passes and bragging rights over everyone who just couldn’t bear it!

Please join me in supporting Special Olympics Florida.

 

Cotton-Top Tamarins at Animal Connections at SEAGarden, SeaWorld

Meet the cotton-top tamarin. This adorable monkey is one of the amazing animals we met recently at “Animal Connection at SEAGarden” at SeaWorld.

Located in the park in the area in front of what used to be the Clydesdale barn, the SEAGarden has a couple of gazebos where guests can have an up-close-and-personal look at a variety of animals in scheduled “interactions.” Right next door is the Terrace Garden Buffet, too. (An all-you-can-eat pizza/pasta restaurant.)

On the critically endangered species list, the less-than-a-pound Tamarin is a spunky, friendly and (I found this especially interesting) is usually born as a twin like other callitrichids (small primates).

Check out the Cotton-top at SEAGarden next time you’re at SeaWorld. And be sure to support the SeaWorld and Busch Gardens Conservation Fund. This organization is instrumental in helping animals like the Tamarin around the globe.

Read more about their work and how you can help at: http://swbg-conservationfund.org/

Hubbs-SeaWorld Research and Many Others Play Role in Winter’s Initial Rescue ¦ Dolphin Tale Article One

Four-year-old Daniel doesn’t quite know what to make of the dolphin
who is missing her tail fluke, but he’s eager to learn!

Winter the Dolphin is in the news quite a bit lately, with her movie debut scheduled for later this month. (Click here to go to the website.) Those of us who’ve read about her for years and have followed her amazing journey from rescued animal to global source of inspiration are not surprised one bit that Hollywood called. How can one NOT be inspired of her story of survival and adaptation despite staggering odds to the contrary?

Caught in a crab trap to the point where her body was bent into a horseshoe, the few-month-old baby Atlantic bottlenose dolphin’s body flailed in the water attracting Mosquito Lagoon fisherman Jim Savage in December, 2005. His call to the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission put in motion an army of biologists, and other rescuers, who would work tirelessly for hours in an attempt to save the small dolphin’s life.

Although through movie magic Winter’s rescue seems rather quick it did, in fact, take many hours of a unusually cold Florida day, and into the night.

A research assistant at Hubbs-SeaWorld Research Institute, Teresa Mazza, was one of the first to respond to the cetacean stranding. When she got there just before 10 a.m., Winter was floating on the surface in the middle of the waterway. Together with the fisherman who found and disentangled her, Teresa and Claire Surrey, a manatee rescue expert from Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission, gently guided her towards a sandbar. The women then took turns holding the dolphin in the frigid water across their laps, monitoring her vital signs, and doing their best to keep the frightened calf calm until about 4:30 when scientists from Harbor Branch Oceanographic Institute in Fort Pierce arrived and the transportation team got there to take her to her new home.

It was just before sunset when Winter was loaded into the SeaWorld rescue vehicle for her 165-mile-long long journey across the state to the Clearwater Marine Aquarium. The Animal Care team gladly accepted the “hand off” and each member crossed fingers and toes in hopes that the struggles of the day were not too much for the exhausted dolphin to bear. They worried, too, if her tail would ever heal from the injuries inflicted.

After hours on the road, more biologists, veterinarians, trainers, and volunteers met the SeaWorld Animal Care team and their very precious cargo. Though badly injured, the dolphin’s spirit showed the staff that they should, indeed, hold out hopes that she could survive.

And survive she did! Winter, named for the winter day she was rescued, is now the goodwill ambassador for the Clearwater Marine Aquarium whose team works day in and day out in her continuing recovery.

Despite workers’ best efforts, Winter did lose her tail. It wasn’t “movie magic” that helped her swim again… but some talented, caring prosthetic experts. But that is another dolphin tale to come!

Discovery Cove at SeaWorld Takes Your Breath Away

Discovery CoveMy 4-year-old, Daniel, is used to being up close and personal with marine life. As a visitor to SeaWorld and Bush Gardens well over 100 times in his short life (not to mention countless visits to zoos and other animal-themed attractions) he’s pretty much a pro when it comes to interactions. Our visit to Discovery Cove, however, has raised the bar so much so that I fear his expectation of “normal” is forever altered!

Walking into the check-in/lobby building, Daniel first noticed the incredible art. He bent over to examine the mosaic floor. “Look, Mom. It’s like waves,” he said as he then proceeded to show me how many shades of green were represented, and how many blue. His neck craned up: “Look, Mom, at the dolphins!” Above us graceful dolphins appeared to be floating, breathtaking fiberglass on steel crafted by artist Michael Linenbroker. He looked at it from multiple angles, checking out the white fish “swimming” with them. Our feast for the eyes had begun, and we’d only arrived minutes before.

Once our entire group had arrived, our guide walked us out of the main building toward the Reef. “This is a magical path” my son informs me as we make our way along the nature path past Serenity Bay and Dolphin Lagoon. He knows he’s going to see tons of sea life, and is thrilled to find a corded “fish I.D.” card he can take with us for the day. I was happy to find it, too, as he’s extremely curious on specifics. (I can no longer get away with: “It’s a bird, or a plant, or an airplane.” It’s a Toucan, a Dusty Miller, and a Cessna!)

After donning our wetsuits (sans Spanx, dang it), our little band made tracks for the shore. We easily found a locker for our gear and a chair for our towels. Despite being at capacity for the grand opening of the new attraction, we didn’t feel crowded. Even  “full” was not shoulder-to-shoulder like some places. We felt free and easy, with plenty of “elbow room.”

After our guides gave us the lay of the land we walked into the water, snorkeling gear in hand. A cow-nose stingray swam past us at about “knee deep,” causing aforementioned 4-year-old a moment’s hesitation. Initial fear melted into an ear-to-ear grin followed by wild expressions of delight. Great big eyes looked up at me as he asked, “Can we go way out there?!”

I knew he’d fall in love with Discovery Cove, but I had no idea it would be so hard and so complete. Everywhere he looked there were birds, tropical fish, marine mammals… you name it. At the center of his fascination was the brand new Grand Reef.

With a footprint of 2.5 acres and close to a million gallons of water and 5 million pounds of pristine, sifted beach sand, the Grand Reef is home to thousands of tropical fish and dozens of rays including spotted eagle rays that have a 5-foot wingspan! Behind glass we found eels and, holy moly, sharks!

We balanced on rock formations (man made, like the removable coral so as not to be sharp) and bobbed and floated and swam to points near and far checking out the abundant marine species, and marveling at this unprecedented view into their world.

We did attempt the snorkeling gear, LOL!

I would have loved it if my little man could have used the mask and snorkel to better see the curious and colorful creatures in our midst, but he may be a little young… this trip. He couldn’t quite get it into his head that something covering his eyes and nose (and being tight and pressing on his face) was a good thing. His mom, however, put the gear to good use (with dad nearby to watch the boy). Swimming nose to nose with a stingray whose eyes were larger than mine was awe-inspiring, I can assure you.

“I don’t see how I could ever return to common life after this,” thought we all (quoting “Anne of Green Gables”).

Sure you may have gotten goose bumps at SeaWorld interacting with the marine life and riding the awesome rides. And OK, your family has giggled with delight while whooshing down the slides at Aquatica…. But if you’re ready for your next BIG close encounter with all you love from the marine parks, do not miss Discovery Cove. I’m already counting the days until I, too, can return.

Training and Parenting Have Quite A Lot in Common!

I’ve watched the various whale and dolphin shows at SeaWorld more times than I can count. One of the things I find most intriguing is the outpouring of love they show the animals and the seemingly endless supply of patience they exhibit… even when the animals have no intention of performing on cue. As an audience member, I can tell the hope is that Shamu will swim “that” way. But once in a while he just doesn’t feel like it. I watch the ballet of trainers moving around the stage… encouraging… hoping…. But no. Not now. And you know what? They just go to the next thing. It’s what I aspire to as a parent.

Parenting takes a lot of hard work. (Insert pause where you say, “Well, no duh!”) Sometimes it seems to come effortlessly, while at others you may feel your child has literally been replaced by an other-worldly being who has, apparently, never, no never, been told certain rules, understood explained consequences, and hasn’t ever been allowed to get his/her way. What seems, to you the parent, like a simple request that will ensure a quicker chore completion so you can all get on to the fun is, to your darling, sweet-faced child, tantamount to a request to scrub the floor with a toothbrush. Wouldn’t it be great if there were ways to reinforce those positive behaviors we want from our children while having the ability to overlook ones that aren’t so great?

Enter Operant Conditioning.

The trainers at SeaWorld use operant conditioning to encourage the animals to perform certain behaviors. Basically they positively reinforce particular activities so much that the animals do them more often because good stuff happens when they do. (When you go to work and receive a paycheck, you are conditioned. You do the work, you get the reward.) Trainers also seem to ignore behaviors that are unwanted. No one gets mad. No one goes to time out. Hummmmm.

I enrolled in a free two-week training event at a website called “Positive Parenting Solutions.” Apparently the Alderian psychology they espouse is quite similar to operant  conditioning. It seems people (and animals) coexist better, and with fewer bad behaviors when love is freely given, faults are overlooked, and relationship-building actions are rewarded. Wow. What a concept. (Imagine the look of irony on my face, OK?)

I don’t purport to be an expert trainer, and heaven knows I’m a parent in training. (Um, universe, if you could throw me a “good girl” fish right now that would be swell.) I can say, though, that I have literal goosebumps watching the whales and dolphins majestically  leap through the air or twirl through the water. And yes, I have had tears in my eyes seeing the overwhelmingly apparent mutual affection the trainers have with those in their care.

My child does not (poor thing) have a team of people who spent years in training to learn how to care for him. It’s just me and his dad. And we’re learning as we go.  We don’t always respond with patience. And we have, from time to time, focused on the negative. Oh, and all right, I admit it!, we’ve been inconsistent when consistency is what he needs most. Sigh.

It is my hope more than anything that my child grow up to feel secure and loved… so much so that his behaviors exude both confidence and compassion although I won’t expect him to swirl through the water like a graceful dolphin and pose on the mark. OK, I might want him to smile for the camera if Grandma is taking a picture.

What! No judging! I’m still her child and certain behaviors are reinforced….

A Winter Wonderland at SeaWorld

I think a lot of people get depressed right after the holidays. No more presents to open. No more lights twinkling all around. No cheery holiday songs to mangle. (My favorites are a friend’s daughter, Rachel, singing “Giddy up jingle horse, look at your feet” and my son’s classic misunderstanding of a certain snowman’s anthem. He kept asking what kind of cakes he bakes. We were confused until we realized he thought the words were “Frosting the Snowman!”) Thankfully, SeaWorld keeps the holidays going just a little bit longer… until January 2 at least.

I’m pretty sure we’ve enjoyed the festivities at least 10 times this year, with another one or two on the horizon. Can you blame us?

A few weeks ago we sat front and center for the Winter Wonderland on Ice show. Before the skaters dazzled us with their fancy footwork, a quartet of Polar Express engineers serenaded us barber-shop style with all the favorites. You should have seen my son’s eyes get big and his mouth drop as they crooned away. You’re never too young for music appreciation, and my 3-year-old is certainly a fan! His eyes went from singer to singer. “It sounds just like a radio!”

Skates then sliced through the ice when a troupe of dancers performed effortlessly on the stage at Bayside Stadium. Parka-clad beauties in ice-blue dresses “shooshed” and swayed with their all-in-white partners appropriately to “It’s the Most Wonderful Time of the Year” followed by a high-energy solo for “Frosty the Snowman.” We especially enjoyed the graceful and elegant “Christmas Waltz” (just picture the flowing white gowns billowing in the breeze as the skaters glide past you!).  We then got jazzed up by a really top-notch soloist performing to “Cool Yule,” one of my favorite holiday songs. Big band Christmas music just does it for me and the skater nailed it! My son’s favorite number, though, was “Hot Chocolate!” And yes, we enjoyed the drink at the same time we were listening to the song! Dancing penguins?! Skating chefs with huge whisks?! AND singing about his favorite beverage. Well, as you can imagine… it was fabulous!Skaters performing to "Hot Chocolate" at SeaWorld's Winter Wonderland on Ice

Hot chocolate, the drink!, has been a fun treat this year. All through the Christmas Market, and throughout the park, there are drink stations! We purchased the insulated mugs that allow you to get inexpensive refills. I have at least a pound or two of holiday weight gain thanks to these little babies, but OH has it been fun! (My favorite photos are of my little guy with a chocolate mustache curled up his cheeks while he hugs Santa Shamu!)

Warm insides, chilly (chilly!) temperatures outside have made for a wintery wonderland this year. Sigh. It’ll be over in a few days. OK, now I’m getting depressed. Better go make some cocoa…

Firefly Moments at SeaWorld

Little boys are more like fireflies than kittens… lightening in a bottle, elusive to catch, a joy to behold, and radiating with a glow from within. Kittens are also a blur of motion, and tough to pin down, but sometimes, just sometimes they slow down enough to be held. I had that joy the other morning when my usually wiggly 3 1/2-year-old snuggled up with me in my bed and let me rub down his back, his arm draped over my neck.

Moments of pure unadulterated warmth and joy are ones to cherish. I’ve been thinking about special times like that a lot lately with the holidays fast approaching. We’ve had many of our special memories of the season at SeaWorld.

I think we’ve either spent Christmas day, or the day before or after, at SeaWorld my son’s entire life. (Not to mention at least two or three times during the month of December!) The crowds are not bad, and everyone is in a good mood. Holiday sounds and music echo through the air. And most importantly, I have beside me the most amazing little boy, holding my hand, curling up next to me as we watch the dolphins from the underwater viewing area, or giggling like mad at the cold, cold riders of Journey to Atlantis as they get soaking wet from the splash at the end. It’s especially magical to romp through the Polar Express.

At my son’s age trains, as you can imagine, are of paramount importance. (A certain little blue cheeky engine and his friends take center stage, um, I mean floor, at our house.) Christmas trains, however, hold a special fascination. Unlike the warm climate our mild winter offers trains and their passengers, the winter wonderland of the Polar Express Experience allows that train to chug chug through ice and snow in a place so cold you need hot chocolate to warm your insides. I smile watching my son’s chubby red cheeks try to grin and drink at the same time, his jacket now dribbled and dotted with cocoa.

Of course the train isn’t real, and you can’t actually ride on it except through either the visual and physical sensations of the simulator ride (this is, mind you, my son’s only complaint about SeaWorld: no “real” train), or by watching the movie in the non-motion version. It is, nonetheless, a place to imagine Chris Van Allsburg’s vision… followed by a chance to meet Santa Clause, adorned in the glorious costume depicted in the Caldecott  Award-winning book and Oscar-nominated film.

I look forward to the new wonders SeaWorld’s dreamed up this year. The Sea of Trees, 74 in all, will be lighted within and without, synchronized waters arcing over and through them as the seas around them come alive as they “dance” to the holiday music.

There will be an ice skating show, which I’m anxious to see, and fireworks to cap off the evening. My little guy will be, no doubt, snuggled up on my lap as we watch. I’ll rub his back and as he drapes his little arms around me and his dad. We’ll drink in the magic and enjoy every blessed minute. I’ll bet the sparkles and flashes above our heads look like fireflies in the sky….

Not Spooky at All: SeaWorld’s Spooktacular

Halloween is, for some, a time to get scared, to play “tricks,” and to dwell on the… shall we say… creepy things of this world… and things other-worldy. (Insert Vincent Price maniacal laugh here.) For me it’s none of those things. It’s about playing dress up, making new friends as you “forage” for candy and other tasty treats, and having an excuse to be just plain silly.

Last year my then 2-year-old really enjoyed Halloween Spooktacular at SeaWorld. He wore a pumpkin T-shirt since it was a bit hot for his “real” costume, but there were kids fully decked out as well as wearing street clothes. All were welcomed and treated as if they were the most adorable child there.  (In case you were wondering, his “real” costume was Smarticus the gladiator. His mom (yours truly) was “Mother of Boy” instead of Helen of Troy. Dad was… wait for it… Dadius Gladius–pronounced: Dad he is, glad he is. Yes, we’re that nerdy. And yes, he was adorable!)

Walking down the entrance to the “Spooktaclar walkway” (as we call it), we were greeted by bubbles, bubbles, and more bubbles. For a toddler, this is one spectacular way to be welcomed to the festivities! Whoa. A fish on roller skates just whizzed by us. Or was that sea weed? And a butterfly catcher?!

Down a ways we came to the first candy stop. Big inflatable barrels shaped in an anemone-type shape are practically overflowing with tiny, tasty treats. Mister Shy-when-he-wants-to-be is hesitant to go up at first. “Hey there, little guy,” the SeaWorld worker says. Smiles are exchanged, and my young man is loosening up. He gets a bit more comfortable as he continues on and even gets “brave” enough to have his picture with a beautiful mermaid. (Usually mommy is the only girl lucky enough for this.) Fully acclimated to the sights and sounds, we were off to fill our goody bags. (Yes, parents are allowed to sample, too. Score!)

On the way to Abby Cadabby’s maze we pass by dog fish. And catfish. And other assorted creatures of the deep (and some from someone’s fabulous imagination!). Photo opportunities abound, and I took them up on every one!

Older kids were not as impressed with the maze as my toddler was, but for his age-group it was perfect. At different way points, Abby’s friends posted signs about which way to go. Parents read aloud and kids answered silly/cute questions. Eventually they reached the finish line and they all, including mine, seemed pleased with themselves.

Along the shore you can find the hysterical Longshoremen at SeaWorld

One of the highlights, however, was watching the Longshoremen perform their pumpkin routine. You won’t find their schedule posted on the daily map (rats!), but you can find them “along the shore” most afternoons making people laugh. I think we sat down for their show every weekend of the event. FYI: “pumpkin guts” can be made using rope, shaving cream, and a tiny bit of orange tempera paint. Who knew?

Next stop: Shamu’s Happy Harbor where Penny Penguin, Opie Otter, and other strolling characters show us their costumes. Shamu (the character version!) can also be seen donning a fanciful getup. (Say, I wonder what he’ll be for Halloween this year!) After a few photos, and rides!, we made our way to the Pets Ahoy theater.

Seasonally, the fun is changed for a couple of shows a day and the Sesame Street gang, not the pets, are the stars. The Count takes over for the “Countdown to Halloween” and delighted fans sing along. OK. Their parents sing along, too.

While no frightening laugh track is piped in over loudspeakers and the only things jumping out at you are the dolphins and whales out of the water, SeaWorld’s Halloween Spooktacular is our kind of fall festival. Good, clean fun. Adorable children. Smiles. And pop! More bubbles.

The Flying Fiddler in Shamu’s Happy Harbor at Sea World

I still get giggles when I think about my toddler riding the “Flying Fiddler” ride the first few times. He called it the “Crab Ride.” We called it hysterical. While not too brave on some of the faster rides, little Daniel laughed and grinned as the crab went up, up, up in the air and… whoosh, let him drop. It only goes up to maybe 20 feet, but to a three-footer (children under 42″ may ride with an accompanying adult) it’s HUGE!

Daniel’s riding “evolution” took many twists and turns. First he was enthralled with it, if not a tiny bit frightened. Scary can be fun, seemed to be his first thoughts of the ride. Then we went through the “oh, no, I didn’t ride on THAT” phase where he could remember himself being on it (and saw the YouTube videos), but couldn’t quite gather the strength to ride. Now we’re again on the “Let’s GO!” phase.

I’ve had a lot of reason to research a child’s life phases the past few weeks. He’s right on par. One day up, one day down. Just like the ride. Children, especially toddlers, are volatile, adorable, exciting, exasperating, all within the span of a few moments. They are still learning about the world around them, and it is up to the adults in his/her world to be the safety harness… especially mom and dad.

I have to remind myself when I am on one of my “don’t want to ride it” phases, that my child is a work in progress. When he’s crabby, I must love him. For one day he’ll be flying solo… without me.